Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Russian Ambassador to Kabul advices US not to pull out of Afghanistan precipitously but will never send troops over there (again)

Map of Afghanistan with flag.Image via WikipediaThe Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Andrey Avetisyan was interviewed by Morning Edition co-host Renee Montagne. Apparently, Ambassador  Avetisyan was a young diplomat in Kabul during the Soviet Union's military occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980's.

He has some advice for the United States -- to "not to pull out of Afghanistan precipitously." In the same interview, he  also says that "Russia prefers to learn from the mistakes of the past and we will never send our troops to Afghanistan."

Asked about the similarities between the current war in Afghanistan with the Soviet War in the 1980's, this is what the ambassador says:

Avetisyan: Similarities [are] those who decided to go into Afghanistan to fight terrorism hoped for several months — exactly like the Soviet Union, which didn't want to be involved here for so many years. But they were dragged deeper and deeper into this, and in a couple of years' time found themselves in the midst of internal conflict. So, fighting in Afghanistan is not what you think it's going to be. So, what is the end to this? Just withdraw? I think premature withdrawal now will bring a lot of problems, new internal war, new civil war to Afghanistan. It is a very dangerous thing just to put yourself a date, artificially calculated, and then withdraw. I don't think today the circumstances are right for withdrawal of the international forces and transition of responsibility for the security to the Afghan security forces. They're not yet ready.
The current war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001. It'll be 10 years next month, and the Afghan security forces are "not yet ready." From 2011-2021, the Afghan security forces will be slightly ready.  From 2021-2031, the Afghan security forces will be slightly more ready. From 2031-2041, the Afghan security forces will be more or less ready. From 2041-2051, the Afghan security forces will be so-so ready. From 2051-2061, the Afghan security forces will be ready if only its troops desertion rate stops spiking up.

If we stop paying attention, this 10-year war can slowly just go on and on and on like a war to nowhere (the PR folks would say it's the journey not the destination).  Our children's children's children will be fighting this forever war as officials like Ambassador Avetisyan continues to give us their most kind advice to stay until the Afghans are ready. Or as our very own ambassador to Kabul scares us into staying or risk more attacks.  I'm sorry, drinking that Kool-Aid is no longer my cup of tea.

Montagne points out that after the Soviet Union withdrew its troops in the late '80s, in '89, it might have stayed committed to Afghanistan in terms of development and helping with development, but it was actually unable to, because the Soviet Union, pretty shortly after that, broke apart.  Ambassador Avetisyan's response:
Absolutely. The Soviet Union made a huge mistake sending troops to Afghanistan, and the Soviet Union paid a huge price for this mistake. Russia prefers to learn from the mistakes of the past and we will never send our troops to Afghanistan.

Apart from this, we are ready and already cooperating with Afghanistan on everything. We support the army and police, we support international coalition here, because we share the goals of fighting against terrorism and international crime. For us, drugs are even more important. Every year about 30,000 Russians die from Afghan heroin. Russia can't be involved in Afghanistan from a distance because we are members of the region. We are here. We can't go anywhere like many countries involved now can.

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